19:05 GMT23 January 2021
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    Yannick Harrel, an expert in cyberstrategy, gave his take on the situation around the Telegram messenger ban as well as on online correspondence security in general.

    Recently, Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor ruled to block the Telegram messenger app after the company had refused to provide the Russia Federal Security Service (FSB) with encryption keys to decipher messages, explaining that it simply could not do so, because keys to each specific chat are stored on users' devices. Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov called the watchdog’s decision "unconstitutional" and insisted that he would keep defending the right of the Russian people to secret correspondence.

    "Some EU officials are using Telegram. It also seems to me that during the last French presidential election campaign this channel was used for communication security. Nevertheless, Mounir Mahjoubi, a Digital Technology Secretary, has recently offered to use an encrypted messenger for the country’s domestic services instead. That’s one of the considered Telegram alternatives," Yannick Harrel said.

    "The basic goal is to use a messenger that can guarantee a certain security level of the departments as they have some top-secret information. At the same time, what are the guarantees that all this information is correctly saved, encrypted and, most importantly, that it isn’t available to other people even if it goes through those sworn an oath and trusted? That’s a persistent problem. At some moment there’s a suspicion that there’s some soft spot, that there’s nothing 100% sustainable. That’s part of the National Cybersecurity Agency of France (Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information, ANSSI) demands. We should have paid more attention not to the technical aspects but to the legal and ethical guarantees of the information not coming into third parties’ hands," Harrel said.

    Earlier, a journalist from the Russian newspaper reported that the ICQ messenger would be used by Moscow's officials to communicate with each other, instead of the Telegram.

    "There’s no need to be delusional – even if Telegram is over it will be replaced by some other apps. It’s a never-ending fight as there is the so-called “innovative poison” no matter where it’s from – Russia, the US etc. 200 million Telegram users have needs that are now going to be catered by its competitors," the ITU expert noted.

    Before the messenger was bocked, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin considers the Telegram messenger convenient and uses it, noting, however, that the government might look for alternatives to the app.

    "Russia wasn’t the only country to make this claim [to block the messenger]. Some other states have already raised such demands: Germany, France, China, Bahrain, Indonesia and, recently, Iran. Everybody’s worried about how to combine the privacy of the conversation with the need to fight organized crime. We speak here of an entire group of services around Telegram log file, that functions on various devices including mobile phones. As the system is decentralized, it may be banned in one country but allowed in another one. The ban can be bypassed via some alternative channels. It’s hard to get in the way of using this app as there are ways to bypass the ban," Harrel said.

    Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov said earlier that the messenger would use built-in methods to bypass blocking, which do not require user activity.

    "The new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [due to come into operation on 25 May, 2018] is to become another bitter blow on Facebook with its monthly audience of 2 billion users. It will have to be much more transparent. There’s a small revolution coming. It’s quite likely that some of those who have joint the #DeleteFacebook campaign are going to use Telegram or the messengers that will replace it as people realize that their data may be used to make profit. Everything written in personal chats can be used for commercial purposes or by the Government," the ITU expert explained.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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